Back in May, I decided to participate in the South Carolina Archival Association (SCAA)’s spring workshop, which was being held in partnership with the Palmetto Archives, Libraries, and Museums Council on Preservation (PALMCOP). The topic: disaster preparedness.
Ann Frellsen came from Emory University to present on the basics of preparing to face disasters, and she had us do a hands-on activity that simulated a tornado followed by rain. That day was fun, and I learned a lot. I met so many great folks from all over South Carolina.
This week, I worry for them.
South Carolina has seen historic flooding. The damage from so much rain in such a short period is both impressive and heartbreaking. There are a number of organizations that have volunteers assisting on the ground and are providing basic supplies to evacuees. As someone who grew up close to the most heavily affected areas, I’m thankful for that assistance and for those lovely people willing to help. I’m grateful that President Obama has already declared the state a disaster area, so that federal aid can be sent quickly.
However, as the rivers finally crest, as the television cameras turn away, that’s when our fellow archivists are going to need help. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, SAA set up the National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives, now administered by the SAA Foundation. These grants of up to $2,000 can be awarded to any archive needing to recover damaged or at-risk material.
There are several options available to assist archivists as they deal with damaged materials. Locally, PALMCOP has a disaster kit that it loans to institutions. SAA’s Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC) has compiled a list of disaster response resources. The American Library Association (ALA) and the Council of State Archivists (COSA) also have lists available. Finally, the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) has a group of 107 trained volunteers that can be deployed to disaster areas to assist with collections recovery efforts. If an institution is in need of on-the-ground assistance, they can be contacted here.
For the rest of us, this is a reminder of why disaster preparedness is so important. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun, getting ready for the worst case scenarios, but it ensures the continuity of our collections. As archivists, that’s something we value.